258 Comments

Moderates rarely just split the difference on most issues. They usually adopt idiosyncratic blends of partisan positions. This is especially true of politically engaged moderates. For instance, I’m pretty far left on taxation and health care, but pretty far right on wanting to kneecap the regulatory state. I’m pretty far left when it comes to the treatment of property crimes yet I support the death penalty and harsh sentences for serious, violent crimes. I’m pretty far left about sexual freedom, but close to the median voter when it comes to trans issues. I was very close to the median voter in my personal caution towards covid, and wanted to systematize that by adopting the Great Barrington Declaration. Above all, I’m willing to experiment, try new stuff, and live and let live until you start killing or maiming others.

Yet I would never describe myself as moderate. I’m not trying to fit in. I hold many of my beliefs passionately. My biggest beef with the political class is that it takes too few risks even though most prominent politicians will land pretty softly if they strike out. All of which is a long way of saying I’m politically homeless but rarely vote R.

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Heterodox Enthusiasm is part of why the sub-brands are needed. More Labels! And more sustainably funded, coherent, pragmatic political factions.

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Political institutions may have something to do with more / fewer factions. For instance, multi-member districts with some way of splitting the vote between parties, allow small parties to be represented without being an absolute majority in any district. (In an extreme case, the Israeli Knesset has 120 seats apportioned to parties in proportion to their vote, with no geographic subdivisions, so a party that has 10% support nationwide with no geographic clusters can get 12 seats.) I think Italy also has multi-member districts and a parliament, which contributes to having many political parties, and a tendency for governing coalitions to be short-lived.

If you can elect only one member per district, it's essentially impossible for a party to get elected without representing a geographic cluster of voters. To have an ideologically-based third party get into Congress or influence presidential elections, you'd basically need them to move en masse to one state, in sufficient numbers to dominate its politics, without being followed by large numbers of loyal Democrats or Republicans who want to keep your state in their party's orbit.

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3

Interesting — I have similar views to you, except I am more law-and-order-ish for property crime (and other types of small bore antisocial behavior), but very strongly against the death penalty. I am European, so maybe that has something to do with it….

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To me, the death penalty is a microcosm for the ability to make tradeoffs. Sure, human life is valuable, but nothing is infinitely valuable. Human beings die all the time, so killing a few especially degenerate ones doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

As a young public defender, I couldn’t stand the capital defender types. They thought a death penalty case was orders of magnitude more important than an aggravated child moleststion or a non-death penalty murder. The wanted to pour hundreds of thousands of even millions of dollars into a capital case when the system would barely cough up $10k in attorney time for a murder. That made no sense to me. I would rather defend three non-capital murders well than poor hundreds of thousands of dollars into defending one dude who is especially likely to be unpleasant

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3

I think the strongest argument against the death penalty is that sometimes people are wrongly convicted, and this sometimes (albeit rarely) comes to light decades after the crime/trial. It’s bad enough when this leads to innocent people spending decades in prison, but death is pretty damn irreversible. I generally agree with your point about tradeoffs, but I am not confident enough in our justice system (or really any conceivable human-run justice system) to accept death as a potential outcome.

E.g. this happened in my state: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna48940

And I’d be willing to bet for every one of these that gets uncovered, there are many that don’t

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1) if a person is wrongfully imprisoned, they can never be given back the years they lost

2) very little postconviction work happens in non capital cases, so there isn’t much of a safeguard

3) the quality of defense lawyering in capital cases is far higher, so there’s far less risk of a false conviction in a capital case

4) a person being executed for a crime he didn’t commit isn’t much worse than a kid dying of diarrhea or malaria

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I agree with all of your points, but I not sure why they lead you to a pro-death penalty position. (To be more specific, on 2 & 3 I don’t really have much knowledge, since I’m not a lawyer, but your claims definitely seem believable.)

Points 2-4, in particular, seem pertinent to the question of how resources should be allocated within a system that has capital punishment; I do not see why they constitute an argument in favor of capital punishment existing in the first place. It seems to me that your line of thinking can just as easily work as an anti-death-penalty argument: if we eliminated capital punishment, we could divert more resources into defending non-capital cases, malaria research, etc

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and my biggest reason for supporting executions is signaling that i’m willing to crack eggs to make an omelette. not an iraqi sized egg for a gwot omlette but a few hundred to a couple thousand executions a year to show we are serious about crime

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cost of incarceration is like $40k per man year, so if the death penalty could bd used in a more routine way without a capital case costing hundreds of thousands, it would be a savings

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I’d much rather be promptly executed than spend many years in prison, unless it’s like a Norwegian prison.

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Death for murderers, Norwegian prisons for youthful burglars. Easy peasy.

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3

"Liked" because I've thought the exact same thing. It's also worth noting that, very ironically for all the progressive idolization of "indigenous ways of knowing," etc., my understanding is that most (possibly all) indigenous cultures that have been exposed to the concept of imprisonment have had the same reaction -- i.e., killing someone is more humane than locking them in a little room for several years, let alone decades.

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Doesn’t this in practice mean that they death penalty is prohibitively expensive? It will always be appealed and sap up the resources of the best lawyers and take like a decade. In practice that has meant that the death penalty is far more expensive. I’d be open to it in narrow cases (Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, Nuremberg) but like under this heuristic I think McVeigh would be the only arguable case in the USA in my lifetime

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Given how few executions we have, the cost of the death penalty is cheap for the symbolism you get. symbolizing the fact that nothing is infinitely valuable is worth 0.01% of gdp

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It’s hard for me to put Lee in front of child rapists on the march to the gallows when he fought so honorably and well and was so loved by his men.

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It seems like your positions are sort of in conflict. Isn’t the death penalty itself (and people’s reaction to it) what leads to such extravagant spending?

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I don’t see how this is an argument in favour of your stance on the death penalty. Seems like abolishing the death penalty would make it easier to avoid spending so much money litigating those cases, no?

Makes me think of the old “there is no option C” thing. You have A) spend a tonne of money killing a subset of convicted criminals, or B) spend less money because you don’t bother killing criminals.

Option C) kill people on the cheap

… doesn’t seem to be on the table (for civilised countries).

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The U.S. executed 82 people in 1950. It was a somewhat routine part of the justice system. I’d like to get back to that.

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Given that we have just two major parties assembling vast coalitions across our nation of 330 million people, I think it's fair to say that basically everyone is "politically homeless" in that neither party will match most of each individual's views.

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I've always thought that, since multi-party systems almost always end up led by a negotiated multi-party coalition, our system saves a step by having the coalitions already in place.

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We have two umbrella organizations that have multiple underlying ideologies. They’re coalitions in any other country. They’re just maximizing for our system.

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So what would you call someone whose views are rarely in the middle, but on the whole average out to the middle? Heterodox?

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Cross-pressured works, too

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That's what most "moderate" or "independent" voters are. We could call someone like that "average American."

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A Centrist.

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David,

A comprehensive and yet concise position statement, and one that resonates with me a bit. Yet I see that many of the replies have taken a detour onto one of the specifics—the death penalty—rather than engage with the larger point.

I mention this up front to acknowledge first your theory of moderation via idiosyncrasies before I of course delve into my own detour: but rather than your righty-ness on capital punishment, I’d like to hear more about what you mean by leftiness on property crime…especially from your perspective as a PD.

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I think shoplifting is a nuisance that adds 2-3% to retail prices. I don’t think we should ever contemplate multi year sentences to “eradicate” it, even for recidivists

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Isn't it a law of nature that the most enthusiastic and motivated voters are also generally the most extreme?

It seems like pretty basic psychology. It's really hard to be really fired up about a view where your position is that we need to balance the legitimate points of the two extremes. Consider any issue from global warming to tariffs to Israel-Palestine and think about the person you know who is most worked up about it. Do they occupy an extreme position or think that we need to balance legitimate concerns on both sides? Of course it's the former because beliefs are socially reinforced and the extreme ends of the spectrum create communities that amplify the beliefs of their partisans in a way that's not possible for a more moderate position.

Best case, enthusiasts have eclectic extreme views (some align with one party another with the other party) but once peer groups/demographics tend to align with a party even that seems unlikely. I'd like to be wrong so let me know if there any countries where the most enthusiastic voters aren't also the ones with the most extreme views.

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EDIT: Hellkitty gave a better way of explaining much of this effect. People often form extreme views using type 1 (emotional/unconscious) thinking but moderate views via type 2 thinking and the former tends to go along with more enthusiasm.

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author

There’s something to this

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Partisan primaries increase the influence of extremists and Alaska’s switch to nonpartisan primaries in 2022 offers hope that they can be a moderating force on extremist candidates by making them appeal to more constituents. I believe there are ballot initiatives in eight states to pass similar reforms in November. It feels like the start of a movement to overhaul the way candidates are elected.

Curious for your views on electoral reforms that favor centrists.

https://www.uniteamerica.org/case-study/alaska

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Not a coincidence that some of the most enthusiastic centrists (including Blue Dog co-chairs Mary Pelota in Alaska, MGP in WA, and Jared Golden in Maine). To be sustainable, replicable, and actually wield power once elected it's gonna need to be organized in sub-brands.

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I wonder if formal "party factions" that can endorse a candidate and have their faction name (or logo) on the ballot paper would help. You'd have to allow multiple factions to endorse the same candidate (like New York fusion voting) and you'd have to act to prevent the factions from reinventing primaries (e.g. restrict voting on who to endorse to dues-paying members of the faction or a committee elected by those members).

The factions could themselves align with caucuses in Congress. You'd end up with something that rather closely resembled a multi-party system without actually being multi-party, and where the factions are formally committed to the parties to a degree that isn't true of parties being formally committed to coalitions in a normal multi-party system.

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The historical US political system was kind of like semi-formal factions within parties. The country never had a durable system of more than two nationally competitive parties for long, but a Democrat from New York would not be the same as a Democrat from Alabama, and there would be factions differing by ideology or by choice of leader within the parties. They wouldn't necessarily have formal faction names, but people would know who they were.

The current system is more polarized, but has some factionalism even now. Among the Democrats, there is a definite left-wing faction, contrasted with more moderate Democrats, and with conservative-for-a-Democrat politicians such as Joe Manchin. Among the Republicans, there seem to be a few politicians who still think that Donald Trump should not be entirely above the law (a small and dwindling faction), and there are divisions between Republicans willing to compromise with Democrats to keep the government running and those who would rather shut it all down.

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My argument is that formalising this would make it more transparent to more voters - I suspect a lot of voters find this very opaque.

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If he would moderate on abortion and reconsider his 2012 turn to the right (which I imagine he has), I wouldn’t be terribly opposed to a Biden-Romney ticket. Romney is more conservative than me, but he’s an honorable and patriotic institutionalist which we need more of. And he’d probably pick off more votes than he’d lose for Biden.

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Ranked choice voting!!! Or approval voting, whatever

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"It's really hard to be really fired up about a view where your position is that we need to balance the legitimate points of the two extremes."

"What do we want? Incremental change!"

"When do we want it? In due course!"

I'm not going to bring up that Yeats quote, because it would be too cliche, but you know the one I mean.

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I once read a novel, can't remember which one, the plot of which included a tv soap opera called "Passionate Intensity."

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There's a difference though between having moderate politics, in the sense of having political positions that are somewhere in the middle of the left-right spectrum, and having a moderate temperament.

One can be "extreme" in ways that don't align cleanly with left and right. For example, one may see oneself as aiming to be as rational or accurate as possible, which can make one even downright contemptuous of extremists at either end as being sloppy, thoughtless idiots. That could motivate disengagement if one feels that the idiots have taken over and are incorrigible, or it could motivate one to work with the side that has fewer idiots and try to coax that side to be less stupid. Honestly, I think a lot of hippie-punching center-leftists think that way.

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That is why we need to make voting super easy and try to make something kind of like a feeling of civic obligation to do, so that people who aren't highly motivated by extreme views vote, even in primaries and off-year elections.

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But unless you remove the restrictions on money that make the enthusiasts so valuable for fundraising I'm not sure that's enough.

I believe that campaign finance reform was one of the most dangerous and ill-considered laws passed in the modern era but I can't imagine how we could repeal it.

The right kind of sufficiently generous public financing scheme could do the job -- especially if qualification required something like signature collection that party apparatus would make a large difference in -- but that only works if you are willing to offer those funds string free (or so generous to be worth the strings) and be quite generous. IMO we should be willing to spend to secure our form of government, but so far we haven't seemed eager to do so.

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As demonstrated in the Citizens United case, we can't restrict spending on political messaging due to the 1st amendment as well as the subjectivity in differentiating between political messaging and commercial/creative expression. People and organization can spend their own money on promoting whatever message they want, including political messaging.

And I think that was the right call!

Recall that Citizens United began by trying to block the release of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in the lead up the 2004 election under the terms of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The Federal Election Commission allowed that film (rightfully so IMO), so CU attempted to create a mirror image film smearing Hillary Clinton, for release around the 2008 election. The FEC blocked that one, and when CU sued, the courts recognized the subjectivity in differentiating political speech from create/commercial speech. Moreover, the 1st amendment doesn't even have a carve out for political speech restrictions so its a moot point.

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I was arguing that the law which CU limited was very bad for our system by empowering the most extreme voices.

But even if you disagree about the policy implications any other ruling would have drastically undermined the first amendment. The problem is that the only other option for a rule (unless the government could prevent the NYT from running editorials) was to carve out special privleges for the institutional press. But I think subsequent developments nlike substack reveal how unworkable that rule would have been not to mention that letting the government police that line is exactly the sort of thing the (ideas justifying the) 1st tells us we can't trust the government to do.

And despite what the left says it doesn't prevent us from limiting the influence of the wealthy on our elections. It just means that if we want to limit that influence then you need to generously fund public financing to dillute those effects. And if it's not worth enough to the country to spend enough on public financing to limit the influence of the rich then it's certainly not important enough to limit free speech instead Z

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The equivalent UK law has a series of components.

First, it very strongly limits spending on a single campaign, while having a much more generous limit on spending by a party (provided that spending does not promote a single candidate for office).

Second, it allows for "third parties" to register (FOC) with the Electoral Commission (equivalent of the FEC). They can campaign for or against individual candidates (with a limit of about 30% of the single-candidate limit) or for or against particular issues or parties on a national level (with a limit of about 30% of the national party limit).

Third, it does carve out a press exception; the requirement there is that the press organisation must be independent of a political party and of any third party, and that it must have had some significant existence before the election and that it must not be exclusively or primarily campaigning for a party or candidate(s) - that is, it has to do something else. If it's a pure mouthpiece for a party, then it comes under the party's campaign expenditure limit. But it doesn't carve out special privileges for the existing institutional press, and lots of even very-partisan outlets have been agreed to be press by the Electoral Commission.

And individuals commenting on social media aren't spending more than the de minimis limit (£50 in the five-week duration of the formal campaign) to do so, so an occasional Substack or Twitter subscription doesn't require them to be press or third party campaigners.

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First, the UK has a very different system about regulating speech. The EU countries generally don't have "hard" protections against the government but instead rely on a more norm based consensus about what kind of speech should be allowed with pluses and minuses [1]. It's certainly a system that works in European countries (tho one may prefer one to the other) but it does rest on a degree of cultural consensus that I don't think is present in the US especially in light of the national media market but state level lawmaking. And the US approach of hard free speech rights requires bright lines this approach doesn't seem compatible with

Second, I think your claim about substack and twitter is too quick. Sure, maybe I don't spend anything to write a substack post but substack has millions in servers and PR behind their system and it's not clear why that doesn't get counted especially given the varying degrees of platform nuetrality and speech motivated investment.

And this isn't just hypothetical. There were actually cases where people were being investigated (local governments) because they had a blog that was self-hosted and they'd spent quite a bit on the server (you may well need to if you get popular and want to serve millions of hits a day but you may also just do so bc you like playing with computers).

And it gets harder when you note that many social media companies do engage in content filtering and choices about promotion. Suppose that Musk tweeks the algorithm to favor pro-Trump stances is that an expenditure for these purposes? By whom? If so why isn't it an expenditure when YouTube or Facebook mark claims about the theft of the 2020 election as false or disfavor them in their rankings?

Ultimately, I just don't think that approach works without more of a national consensus on what's reasonable in the speech/politics realm.

1: The benefits are obviously getting to use more balancing against really harmful speech but the downsides include ending up with laws against insulting heads of state, blasphemy or in the case of the UK super-injunctions and strong (imo abuseable) libel laws.

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3

Feel like this is kind of a motte and bailey. Individuals clearly shouldn't be prohibited from engaging in political messaging. But the crux of the issue is whether freedom of speech is extended to corporations as well and whether restrictions on funding count as restrictions on speech.

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That also misses the mark. The real issue is how do you draw a line that doesn't let the government shut down the NYT editorial page but somehow regulate other kinds of corporate money.

Remember, the plantiff in CU was a media company formed to make a movie about Hillary. It's not clear how you can possibly draw a line that lets the government forbid that but doesn't let it stop people (via large corps) from publishing the news, books and editorials people need to make an informed deciscion. Indeed, had CU gone the other way the government would be in the buisness of judging whether any movie released during the campaign had a political message (what if you slap a fiction label on it but it's obviously a satire of a canidate, or just a corrupt buisnessesman who gets into politics, what if it merely shows the horrors or war or of not being willing to fight when war is a campaign issue).

But, I think this is all mostly irrelevant. The problem isn't the cases where people knowingly want to fund media that comments on politics and use a corporate form to coordinate as in CU or even for the NYT -- those people who own the shares support that. The problem is when large corporations like Comcast spend money on causes their public shareholders don't necessarily support.

And I see no problem with reforming corporate government to require more explicit approvals or notice and shareholder approval to spend corporate money on lobbying. Indeed, in some ways CU has successfully distracted the left from what. it really should have been focusing on the whole time -- reforming corporate governance so shareholders have real power to decide if the company should be lobbying/spending on political speech.

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I see the argument you’re making but I respectfully disagree. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re implying that by not extending the freedom of speech to corporations and not treating money as speech, then the government would have legal recourse to shut down the New York Times editorial page since the New York Times is a corporation that would be spending money to publish political speech.

Except wouldn’t the New York Times would still be protected under the freedom of press? Granted, this does hinge on what one defines as “press”. I just fundamentally believe the nature of the organization matters and the right for a corporation to exercise unlimited political speech should be limited to organizations that have an express purpose to inform the public (e.g. newspapers, tv news, etc.) Otherwise, why would the founders even feel the need to create a separate carveout for the press in the First Amendment? Under your reasoning, the freedom of press would be unnecessary since it would already be covered under the freedom of speech.

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I think he might have been saying the restrictions on funding parties was bad, not that Citizens United was bad, but he can clarify if not.

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I think public financing is mostly doomed for the simple reason that there are always going to be significant sections of the voters that the majority find revolting. How many Democrats are going to support public funding for a candidate like Trump? How many Republicans would support public funding for a candidate like Bernie? And yet both of them represent large swathes of public opinion.

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Is it Seattle that gave every citizen a voucher to donate to a candidate that would give $10 or $20 or something or public money to that candidate?

I think that comes across much less objectionable because it's directed by individual citizens. The problem is that most people don't actually use those vouchers.

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That's good but it's only going to work best if citizens can transfer those vouchers to organizations they trust to distribute them. Otherwise, it still risks the loudest most extreme voices drawing the most funding because most people don't use their voucher.

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Yep. And there are screwball primary candidates that basically exist to harvest vouchers as a scam

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That’s a shame. Need to work out ways to stop that, then.

I’m sure there are some; it just needs a legislature/regulator who is prepared to look at how things work in practice and tweak them (which is why very strong vetoes are bad; they can be overcome to pass major legislation, but not to fix minor lacunae)

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I would object if I knew public money was going to a candidate that supported things I found reprehensible. If people want to spend their own money on that its one thing. Its another to feel like tax dollars taken from me are being spent on it.

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Everyone pays tax, especially at a local level with sales tax, so it's a chunk of their own taxes not of yours.

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I don't think that's really what prevents public funding -- especially on the left. Usually people irrationally believe that somehow it's not that the public loves horrible people but that dark money is unfairly benefiting them. But that may be more plausible from the right who may fear it's the deep state benefiting their opponents.

I think it's alot just about the people with less strong parrtisan feelings seeing that money being spent and thinking it's being wasted.

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I think your latter point about waste is true. But the left has real concerns about America and voices them often. The first time public financing got an openly racist person elected because they were popular is when the left's support would collapse.

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The state should support Democrats but not Republicans, duh

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Jun 3·edited Jun 3

Public financing is also doomed because it either (1) simply reinforces the existing two-party system (if financing is based on performance in a previous election cycle and/or numbers of registered voters affiliated with a party) or (2) incentivizes creating political parties as de facto fraud schemes/promoters of ideologies that the vast majority of Americans would find repellent (if financing is given equally to each party or on some basis that weights third parties more heavily than their actual membership/past ballot box performance would attract in the way of donations).

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I think you're right, but there might be a way if you have formal parties with member funding. For example if you get to a certain threshold, say 10k members each paying $100 a year to be members, than the state will match that money, but it can only be spent on advertising through non party controlled sources.

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That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure that Americans are going to be any more inclined to pay for political party memberships than they are for paying for on-line news.

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The ultimate problem with public funding of elections is that you’re spending people’s tax dollars on certain individuals’ efforts at self-aggrandizement. The second order effects that Peter discusses may be extremely desirable but the first order means seems incredibly distasteful.

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Regarding public financing--probably hopeless. You know that line on the tax return that asks if you want $3 to go to the Presidential election fund? That was a sort of public financing, though I think it's a dead letter now since Presidential campaigns can raise more than they would ever get by accepting the money and the restrictions that come with it. Anyway, as a long time volunteer with Tax-Aide, I recall the most common response I'd get when asking a taxpayer if they wanted to check the box for the Presidential election fund was "No, there's too much money in politics." Of course I couldn't argue with them (my job was to help them file their taxes, period), but it was very frustrating to know how many people have the "money in politics" issue backwards.

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Yes, but I don't think there is any requirement that this be the only funding mechanism. I don't believe there is any reason you couldn't fund via tax dollars.

Yah, I get the popularity issues but don't underestimate just how much Congress members truly hate fundraising.

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>remove the restrictions on money

Yes.

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Why is campaign finance reform one of the most dangerous and ill-considered laws passed in the modern era?

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Because it empowered the most extreme elements of both parties. People like Majorie Taylor Green happened because that's a very effective way to get a bunch of small donors across the country to send you checks.

Most people never donate any money much less have the time to figure out who to give $25 bucks to in Congress based on some careful policy analysis. So the best way to raise small do or money is to say the most outrageous things to appeal to the most extreme and most riled up voters.

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If you want regular individuals to have the power do something like give each person a fixed number of coupons for campaign funds they are allowed to assign to whatever interest group or intermediary they feel will best allocate it to the right canidates.

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I’m not sure that I follow. Wouldn’t people like MTG would still happen even if campaign finance reform didn’t pass? I would attribute the rise of people like MTG to social media and the internet where clips of her outrageous statements have way more reach than they could have ever before.

Also, if it was a very effective way to raise money, why don’t we see more representatives pursuing this strategy? The vast majority of representatives still raise money by attending fundraisers and talking to lobbyists, not through small donors.

I do think a market based solution for allocating campaign funds would be interesting though.

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Yes, things could be much worse if it was the only way to raise money and social media may have some blame. And quite a few reps absolutely pursue something like this strategy (getting on fox and saying base friendly things) but politicians do usually care and those who aren't in super safe districts face costs for doing so.

By changing the relative ease with which the various fundraising mechanisms worked -- and limiting the extent the party could control the money and would compete with individual canidates for the money -- you prevent them from playing a gatekeeping function. In other words, the bill did exactly what it claimed it would do -- took power away from elites and gave it to the people.

Under the old regime, the party and big donors would have had both the incentive and means (eg by choosing which primary canidate gets a bunch of money) to block MTG canidacy at the primary stage because it harms the party overall. Now it's less clear it harms the party because people like her drive alot of donations and the party and the big donors can't throw around big piles of money to decide who gets the nomination.

Also the fact the party has less money to offer you if you behave means the incentive to follow party discipline is hugely reduced.

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I'd like to believe this but sometimes I fear that this would replace extreme views voting with dumb views voting. I treasure the right of every adult to vote but with so many voters claiming that this is the worst economy in history . . . I don't know, man . . .

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Doing something about the relentlessly negative media because people prefer to read bad news is another topic of concern altogether.

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Yes. I would also say it’s because one takes extreme positions mostly due to emotions, or “system 1 thinking”, the heart - whereas one takes moderate positions due to careful consideration of playing out the consequences, “system 2 thinking”, the head (whatever one calls it)

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Thanks, I knew something like that was at play but I was having trouble formulating it -- this is a great way of putting the point.

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Hmmm. Older people tend to have more moderate views and tend to vote more.

Or is it that older people with moderate views vote, while younger people with moderate views don't vote so young people seem more extreme because only the ones with extreme views vote?

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Enthusiasm and voting aren't exactly the same thing and, of course, I'm not claiming that there are no other factors that correlate with enthusiasm than extremism. Merely that there is a strong correlation there.

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I think you meant the former, not the latter?

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The status quo is by definition moderate. Those who want to change it are, therefore, likely to be closer to the extremes.

Keep things the same is a poor rallying cry

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Definitely directionally true, but it’s also an ecosystem factor - the extremes have dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystems where ideas for orgs/campaigns, talent, and money are efficiently connected. Once a moderate startup gets going, the enthusiasm can be there. Just have to get over the initial minimum viable org threshold. And that’s something donors are used to building in other philanthropically-funded areas.

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One problem is that "moderate" is not quite right. Taxing net emissions of CO2 is not a more "moderate" version of the position of Donald Trump or Joe Biden's position on how to deal with ACC. One Billion Americans is not halfway between the two parties. Neither is radical reduction in deficits. Neither is cost benefit analysis of regulatory interventions (NRC, NEPA, urban land use and building codes) or public investments in things like CHIPS or IRA. Neither is wanting consumption taxes over income taxes. In the "about" of Radical Centrist I have to apologize for "Centrist" but there is no other label.

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This whole piece was hilariously meta:

“ Other people who may enjoy many Slow Boring articles will have other commitments or experiences that leave them squarely in the GOP camp.”

“ Ideally, it means providing financial support to moderate factional institutions….”

“ DC is drowning in propaganda but actual policy analysis is rare and undervalued.…”

“But Mr. Yglesias, what should I do? I donated millions to No Labels because I lean Republican but don’t like Trump. Now I feel burned by them. I’d like to support moderate institutions and I’m turned off by DC propaganda. I’m attracted to high-minded policy analysis and I enjoy many Slow Boring articles. But I just can’t figure out where to donate my next millions! What would you advise?”

Ummm… if I said “gift subscriptions,” would you get a clue?

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One Billion Slow Boring Readers

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The dream

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The existence of No Labels year after year despite the pretty obvious issues makes me more skeptical of Matt's oft-expressed thesis that if you make a lot of money in business you are probably pretty smart.

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Most political giving (by all people regardless of ideology) is more expressive than instrumental

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"Most political giving (by all people regardless of ideology) is more expressive than instrumental"

Your Honor, my clients did not commit fraud. They simply gave people an opportunity -- a valuable opportunity -- to express themselves.

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[Animated GIF of "The Office" character furtively scribbling in notebook]

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"I really, *really* hate Mitch McConnell, and giving a ton of money to Amy McGrath is really going to stick it to him!"

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On the one hand this is obviously true, on the other hand I feel like if you're giving millions of dollars you should adjust the approach a little.

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“…if you make a lot of money in business you are probably pretty smart.”

Money always attracts grifters and cons, and some of them are pretty smart, too.

If you think of No Labels as a political project, it has been a failure. If you think of it as affinity fraud, it has been a success. Find the rich marks who are a bit mushy and confused about the structure of American politics, tell them pretty lies, and they’ll fund your lifestyle.

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I think what it shows is that if you make or made a lot of money, it means the system as it exists now has been very beneficial to you personally. Which means you’re going to have a strong inclination to not rock the boat too far in either a left or right direction with the exception of particular bills or amendments that help you or your business personally.

Status quo bias is a hell of a drug, but it’s especially seductive when the status quo has been such a positive to your own personal gain.

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I don't mean that rich business owners have bad politics (although I also agree with that). I mean that donating millions of dollars to No Labels based on frankly delusional ideas about how American politics works is dumb.

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Remember that before No Labels funded a unity ticket, they formed the problem solvers caucus and many signature bills exist today because of them. They've been more effective than almost every other political group put together.

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What exactly were the major accomplishments of the Problem Solvers Caucus? The Wikipedia article doesn't list anything that actually passed.

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I am consistently perplexed why the first thing all third parties want to do is run presidential elections that they will never win. There are 435 house seats out there, with districts of all kinds of compositions, and the probability of actually winning those is much higher. And given how close majorities in the house are, it wouldn't take very many to make a big impact. If No Labels won 20 seats in moderate districts, it could force an agreement on the rules committee to get a speaker named and actually ensure bills with strong bipartisan support come up for votes. Similarly, there really aren't a handful of seats in California, Washington, and Oregon where a green party candidate could win?

I suppose the answer is because this is more about donating for good feelings and actually voting on bills would involve compromises, but that is pretty depressing. Although it seems like that should apply more to "pure" parties like a green party than to moderates whose while brand is actually compromising.

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"I am consistently perplexed why the first thing all third parties want to do is run presidential elections that they will never win."

Two major reasons I see:

(1) It's the only office you can run for that will get a meaningful degree of national media attention to give your party free advertising for its platform.

(2) People who are interested in third parties want to see big changes within "the system" in real time. If you're just running for a House seat, you can't even begin to plausibly promise that.

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My very limited and perhaps inaccurate understanding is that many states require third parties to offer presidential candidates in order to secure ballot access for future elections. If true, a cynical interpretation might be that the major parties are forcing third parties to invest heavily in hopeless, resource-intensive national campaigns to prevent them from becoming viable regional parties capable of challenging them directly on smaller stages.

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"My very limited and perhaps inaccurate understanding is that many states require third parties to offer presidential candidates in order to secure ballot access for future elections."

I can't claim familiarity with all 50 states' ballot access laws, so I can't say that's entirely wrong, but my strong impression is that what many states require is that a party qualify for at least one *statewide race* to get automatic (or reduced "cost") ballot access in the next election cycle. Putting up a candidate for President thus satisfies that criteria while also having the appeal I mentioned in my separate reply. (It also lets you try for ballot access in many different states without needing to identify "domestic" candidates in each state who could potentially qualify for governor, secretary of state, etc.)

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Two things:

(1) Moderate factions within the two parties won't work if it's seen as too elite or just rich guy factionalism. A huge challenge is bringing an appropriate dose of populism to each party's moderate faction. Moderate Democratic elected officials reflect this -- Glusenkamp Perez, Fetterman, Golden, Manchin, etc. But I'm not sure the rich donors appropriately appreciate this, and you see it less on the Republican side. Save the "elites know better" approach for carefully targeted issue politics on things like YIMBYism and immigration, and even then always be mindful of voter preferences.

(2) The article mentions the staff issue in passing; I think it needs more attention. Someone should invest in developing training and networks for young people interested in politics who are moderates. Your typical College Democrats or College Republicans groups are not friendly environments for moderates, and on the D side you have the whole Groups network that develops networks on the left. Moderate donors should create alternatives for young moderates in both parties so you have people to staff campaigns and offices.

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My off the cuff assumption is that getting competent, politically moderate, technocratically inclined people into politics basically starts and ends with “pay comparably to consulting or finance.”

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Congress needs to give itsself a much larger budget anyway. It needs to do more policy work, and not rely so much on outside groups nor toss the policy work to the executive branch.

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True, underpaying for these jobs means that the applicant pool tends towards the ideologically motivated. But people will still take staff jobs with low pay for various reasons -- college grads from well-off families doing something before grad school, resume building, etc.

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Presumably this is true under the present status quo, though. It appears per Matt's article that the current system isn't cutting it.

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Interesting, this existed more than one might think on the GOP side pretty recently and still does some.

Northeastern Republican congressmen came in 2 types. The first which we are very familiar with is pro-choice, fiscally center-right (the Susan Collinses of the world). But there is also the blue-collar, pro-life, pro-labor type (Chris Smith, Peter King, the Fitzpatrick brothers)

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It sounds as if the No Labels fund-raising effort should go to funding centrist think tanks rather than staging quadrennial fantasy drafts. What are they actually doing with their money?

Even better (but awkward with the No Labels brand) might be to fund explicitly partisan centrist operations - a new 'New Democrats' and something on the Rep side as a counterweight to MAGA.

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This analysis is overly focused on national politics. I live in California which has effectively become a one party state. Under the current two party setup, it’s unimaginable Democrats not having a trifecta. The GOP in California is a useless vestigial political organization that insists in on continuing to be irrelevant by pushing losing positions on culture war issues. In particular, abortion access a settled issue in California because the state constitution guarantees it and the only entity that can change the state constitution is the voters who will not do so.

What is the opportunity for a moderate Democratic sub-brand to emerge in the state when Democrats keep winning election after election even through the median state legislator is far to the left of the median voter? New Democrats emerged after Democrats lost 3 Presidential elections in a row. And as Matt states, it’s no longer a meaningful sub-brand.

In the most left parts of the state such as San Francisco, party labels no longer carry any useful information on candidates that have any chance of winning since every single of one of the them is a Democrat even though their policy view of the candidates will very widely.

So while “No Labels” seems like terrible branding to me, the idea of a “Moderate” party makes sense at the local and state level in places that are now permanent effective one-party states.

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Two things:

1. There are meaningful factional differences between Adam Schiff and Katie Porter or London Breed and Aaron Peskin even though they are all pretty progressive.

2. California had a moderate Republican governor in the recent past. Vermont has one now.

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The last time a Republican won statewide office in California was 2006 when Schwarzenegger won for governor and Poizner won for insurance commissioner. That was 18 years ago. Schwarzenegger only was able to become governor due to a fluke recall election. A successful recall of California governor has only happened once in California history so unlikely to be repeated. The GOP brand is so toxic in statewide politics that when Poizner ran for another term in 2018, he ran as an independent.

The Peskin and Breed example is interesting because how it is party affiliation meaningful for SF local election when every single member of SF Board of Supervisors is a Democrat? If labels are important, then there should be a meaningful choice of labels. The sole focus on national politics miss that the 2 party system has stopped functioning in parts of the country for state and local election and has become 1 party system which is useless for voter to understand what those candidates stand for.

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Recall elections in California are actually pretty easy to trigger (provided you have the money), and they had one in 2021.

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In Los Angeles, Karen Bass decisively beat the pretty conservative billionaire Rick Caruso for mayor in part because Caruso was (justifiably) seen as a Republican. He's been making noises about running again and has been assiduously buffing his Democratic credentials. If Bass is seen as doing a bad job (quite possible with the ongoing homelessness problem), Caruso may very well beat her, despite probably not changing any of his substantive views. In other words, as long as you can present yourself as a party member you can win even with very different views. The party isn't a monolith.

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If there is only one label that is viable for winning in most of the state, the label ceases ro serve any purpose since every viable candidate will have the same label.

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DSA functions that way in some "1 party" areas (for me, it is a good tipoff I won't like the candidate). Mostly within cities/districts vs statewide, of course.

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That's kind of my point. Being a Democrat in Los Angeles doesn't mean anything; everyone is a Democrat. But Caruso may very well win as a "conservative, tough on crime and homelessness Democrat" (i.e., a Republican).

Or maybe not. Los Angeles is still pretty liberal.

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Maryland had one for eight years just now!

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Honest question - is 2010 still considered the "recent" past.

Like, back in the blog days of the mid-2000's, if somebody referred to 1990 as the "recent past?"

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There's no state that won't elect a moderate out-party governor if the ruling party goes too far. Less true for legislative control. The post-Arnold CA GOP hasn't tried to run a good moderate, and at least Jerry Brown was moderate enough that it wouldn't have worked against him. But never say never with this sort of thing. Just look at Maryland and Massachusetts.

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The last time a Republican won any statewide office in California was 2006, which was 18 years ago. California has a whole slew of state wide offices.

It is true that GOP doesn’t run moderates which is why California is a one party state. The complete uncompetitiveness of the CA GOP is why a new party is needed in California. Matt’s argument doesn’t work for situations where there is only one competitive party.

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I don't think California needs a new party; it needs a Republican party that's more interested in winning elections than paying obeisance to its extreme views.

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"Where's the fun in that?" -- Existing median California Republican officeholder

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As much as I enjoy the humor, the incentives for Republican office holders do line up with their behavior. Their best outcome is to become a House member in on the red Congressional districts in the state and to accomplish that, the office holder will need to align to with national Republican view. Kevin McCarthy was Speaker of the House with this approach.

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On the other hand, there are many, many smart and ambitious Bay Area/Los Angeles County Republicans. They should be pushing for something that will help *them* not just the people in the Central Valley and Inland SoCal who can actually win House or legislative seats.

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This. The same is true in Illinois.

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What Matt wants is the Canadian system where provincial party politics is a different system than federal party politics.

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It can still happen. More likely a governor than a random down ballot office. Party labels matter even more for a state treasurer election voters don't really care about.

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Why is a new party needed if you have substantial differentiation between intra-part candidates? "One-party rule" as typically conceived (e.g. in autocratic states)is instrumentally bad because it stifles dissent, but if the one party ceases to be a useful identifier and instead people just run on their personal brand (plus the small information payload of "Not GOP") this seems....fine? In some ways even superior.

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Low information voters do seem to understand what they are voting in this environment evidenced by the historically anomalous number of successful recall elections in San Francisco [DA Chesa Boudin, 3 members of the SF school board] and ( hopefully ) Oakland [Mayor] + Alameda County [DA].

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This comment makes no sense to me at all. Wouldn't a partisan sub-brand have an even greater appeal and raison d'etre in a state where one party dominates?

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Can you name a single example where a sub-brand has been successful when one party dominates?

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Uh, yes. For example, DSA in every jurisdiction where it has a real presence (invariably blue cities). The Freedom Caucus, and before that the Tea Party, in every jurisdiction where it has a presence (invariably very red areas). And there are clearly more moderate factions in all of those areas as well, they're just poorly organized, hence why Matt wrote this article.

Your assumptions are not just wrong, but it's almost not possible to be any wronger, like your understanding of American politics is diametrically opposed to the facts.

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Perhaps you should reread what I wrote. I’m not talking about “American politics”, I’m specially talking about state and local politics in jurisdictions of one party complete control. Living in California, I’ve come to the conclusion involvement in national politics isn’t going to improve my life. California has zero influence over who is President and my Congressional district will always be blue. It’s currently held by someone whose primary focus is shipping tech jobs out of my district to the Rust Belt. I would like my state government to tax me less, spend its huge amount of resources more effectively and stop reducing criminal penalties.

Even if I grant your examples, they are of the more extreme factions launching takeovers of a party, not of sub-brands moderating the party.

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Adam Schiff is more moderate than Katie Porter. Dianne Feinstein was more moderate than Kevin de Leon. I realize you’re talking about state level elections, but it seems like moderate Dems can and do win intra-party battles in California.

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Those individuals are not moderates, they are liberals.

On the other hand, California is liberal, so it's pretty representative that individuals like Schiff and Feinstein win elections here.

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There is a well-defined “Mod Dem” causus in the CA state legislature right now. They are derided by extreme left legislators for taking donations from oil and utility interests, but are considered broadly “pro-business” compared to median Dem politics in the state and have been critical votes on a range of issues.

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I’m glad you touched on the policy generation piece, including the sense that the current moderate brand (or the closest thing to a unified moderate brand) is just saying no over and over, which is both an unhealthy dynamic for the party (as Matt has noted, it lets other members of the party outsource slimming ideas down to Joe Manchin instead of working on it themselves) and also not helpful if a moderate faction hopes to lead the party.

Does anyone know if there are any groups trying to work on early stages of agenda-setting for a moderate faction of candidates, maybe with a view to the next open Democratic Presidential contest?

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I don’t think it helps that the pundit I most associate with “No Labels” is David Brooks. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-center-strikes-back-david-brooks-nyt-column-heralds-emergence-of-no-labels-led-new-center-300369888.html

I also don’t think it’s coincidence that David Brooks wrote is “It’s not time for a 3rd party column” and No Labels announced it wouldn’t have a candidate for President.

What I’m getting at is, it was always going to be an incredible lift to get real traction with the electorate when you’re campaign is not just elite driven but has all the markings of an elite agenda. Fairly or unfairly, Brooks may be the most preeminent example where you’d get both people on the right and the left agreeing he’s an out of touch elite.

Because reality is, it’s hard for me to escape the conclusion that an actual governing agenda from whoever became the No Labels candidate would be something akin to Kyrsten Syenema’s voting record. If anything, you’d want how Fetterman is positioning himself; in rhetoric (although not in voting) vaguely socially right on identity politics and in voting center left on economics. But given who makes up No Labels, the platform would probably be opposite (without ever getting to an actual candidate for President).

I think my overall point is, I feel like the key is messaging and getting Dems on board with campaign strategy of eat lots of hamburgers and brag about your love of gas grills while also talking about protecting health care. It’s silly but I think it’s important that your identity politics stuff is very showy but ultimately meaningless.

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Oh no, gas grills vs charcoal grills is a huge internal wedge in red America though…

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It would probably help moderate politics if more people voted regularly, since most people are moderate. Party primaries are dominated by extremes, since only a few highly motivated people vote in primaries, and so candidates pitch their campaigns to those extreme voters, especially in heavily gerrymandered districts in which the party primary is the election. So we should have automatic voter registration at 18, open primaries, voting by mail in which everyone is sent a ballot, and paid voting leave. Ultimately we should be open to even more reforms so people feel like their votes really matter, such as rank choice voting, and an expanded House of Representatives with multi-member districts. This would render gerrymandering obsolete and give third party and independent candidates a better chance at being elected, so people will feel like they aren't just voting for the "lesser of two evils."

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I’m not sure there’s much evidence for higher levels of voter participation in multi-party systems (ignoring any correlation with compulsory voting).

Like in Canada, which has 5 parties that hold seats in Parliament, the most recent election had 63% turnout. The 2020 presidential election was 66%.

So IMO the low chance that third party candidates to get elected isn’t the reason people don’t vote. Ultimately, the problem is some large share of people are just inclined to be totally disengaged from the political process. I’m not sure what you can do about that. Some large share of the population is disinclined to do almost anything you could name (study hard in school, learn to swim, eat healthily, etc.)

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The U.S. has a low level of election turnout for adults, but so does Canada. I’ve got to think that if people have choices they can believe in, instead of just trying to keep the greater evil from taking over, that could help boost participation. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/11/01/turnout-in-u-s-has-soared-in-recent-elections-but-by-some-measures-still-trails-that-of-many-other-countries/

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Moderate donors should also invest in popularizing the structural reforms that you mention, like ranked-choice and multi-member districts. It would be very hard to get rid of primaries but I find the ‘hollow-parties’ analysis pretty persuasive, so this would be great too.

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My solution to primaries has been to create formal factions, have non-partisan top four/five primaries and ranked-choice general elections. Have a rule that a faction can endorse (and have the faction name on the ballot) only if their internal vote is limited to dues-paying members (either all such, or a candidate selection committee).

You still have "primaries" so voters don't feel like they've had a choice taken away from them, and anyone can enter a non-partisan primary without a factional endorsement, but that factional endorsement gives the voter more information (so candidates without one will be in trouble unless they have extensive other strengths). The "primary" (first round) which reduces you to 4/5 candidates is effective at eliminating non-entities (you have to do that at some point in the process, but it's best to do it before the general election ballot; reducing the choices presented to the average voter to a reasonable number) but can't be used by super-motivated voters to force the electorate into an extreme v extreme choice in the general.

And the factions end up serving the role of the parties in a multi-party system, while the parties serve the role of pre-election coalitions.

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Parties are private organizations. They should be able to determine how they select their candidates.

That being said I think ranked choice voting is probably the way to go

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"Parties are private organizations. They should be able to determine how they select their candidates."

I agree with this, but the problem is that both the state and federal court systems have effectively "blessed" the two major parties as being quasi-public organizations in a number of regards and allowed (or even ordered!) government regulation of many aspects of their primary processes, etc.

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One of the frustrations I have had with door to door campaigning is knowing that it is mainly about mobilizing people already inclined to vote Democratic rather than persuading anyone toward a policy position I agree with.

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I haven't done very much of it, but for me the biggest surprise about door to door campaigning was how generally nice people were, even when they didn't support the issue I was campaigning for.

Maybe I just got lucky, but I expected at least some unhinged yelling and rudely slammed doors. Instead, I got a lot of very polite "Sorry, I'm just not interested in that," and "I'm on the other side of that issue, but good luck and have a nice day" type responses. The whole experience was really surprising to me on that front.

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You have to be an elected official before you start getting the nasty answers on the doorstep in significant numbers. Even as a candidate, you generally get "best of luck" even from people who don't agree with a single word of your policy positions. I was a Lib Dem candidate in a strongly Labour area in 2015 when the party was super-unpopular for having spent five years in coalition with the Tories. People gave me a fair hearing and then said they weren't voting for me.

But if you, personally, have done something they dislike, then the reaction is much stronger. I went out door-knocking with a Lib Dem MP in that same election and I got treated civilly; he didn't.

I suspect there are a lot of Tory MPs who can tell stories right now of voters unloading five years of built-up resentment at them as soon as they knock on a door.

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I agree. I did not mean the experience is unpleasant.

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I've had increasing success in getting people to be literal RINOs to vote in primaries.

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I think expanding the house would make most people's vote there practically meaningless outside of party affiliation. If we have a 5000 member house, the only votes they take that will matter will be the ones for leadership. Many members now are frustrated at how little influence individual members have. Multiply their numbers and it will become even more so..m

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I don’t think anyone is suggesting expansion to 5,000. Right now we have two rigid ideological blocs that see each other as the enemy, which limits the ability to negotiate deals, so everything is done at leadership level. It’s like the Cold War. If you added no a few hundred seats to have multi-member districts, third parties and independent candidates get elected, the rigid ideological standoff ends, and parties will negotiate deals to achieve their respective goals. Individuals will have more influence within parties which have more limited platforms than trying to represent the entirety of the “Left” or the “Right.”

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If you use the proposed amendment number of 50k per seat, you have a 6000+ member house. You can switch the square root method and come out to ~1500, or the cube root method and get to ~700. I think you need over 1000 to break the two party system and maybe more than that.

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I think you could have three members for every House District with an 800 seat Congress, even if you added D.C. and P.R. As states, which we should, and that would be sufficient to enable third party and independent candidates to get elected.

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800 is less than twice the current congress, so you wouldn’t be getting three members in Wyoming for instance. I think a house of 1000 would have something like 350,000 people per seat, so states like Alaska and North Dakota with over 700,000 people might be able to qualify for three seats, but Wyoming and Vermont would still probably not.

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Actually, I already did it. With 800 representatives, every state can have at least three representatives in the House, even if we add a couple of states. All it means is that big states like California and Texas will have slightly fewer representatives than they would have if they received exactly proportional representation to the smallest states. The big states don't have exactly proportional representation to the smallest states now anyway; California currently has 760,000 people per representative, while Wyoming has only 576,000.

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I think "moderate" isn't a coherent policy position. Populists and neolibs can both be realistically described as moderates, but they're orthogonal to one another.

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Neolibs may be moderate in tenor or rhetoric, but they have many positions that would be considered radical. Open borders and eliminating single-family zoning are both (unfortunately) WAY outside the mainstream.

What's considered "radical" or "moderate" has more to do with tone or vibes than actual policy.

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I think it's probably a fundamental flaw in one's politics to believe that small d democratically broad coalition of mushy middle moderates would be capable or inclined towards a kind of highly functional, technocratically optimized governance. It's not how voters work. They typically have strong idiosyncratic views that are simply misaligned with party politics, or alternatively, they vote in ways entirely divorced from the basic constraints of material reality. Moderation is not a guide to efficiency.

On a very basic level all of this is contradictory to the Constitutional order. The premise of the liberal enlightenment Republic isn't optimization, it's consensus. It's pluralism. The state is constrained by the system in ways that simply aren't meant to be compatible with many of the things modern voters want to fight about.

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I don't really agree with this. The US is almost globally unique in that we regularly pass major bills, including the budget (the absolute most basic core function of a government), with a bipartisan consensus. In particular Republicans lean on Democratic votes to get the budget passed. I can't think of another democratic system where the party in power regularly relies on the party that just lost to pass mandatory legislation. We're like a bizarro Westminster system.

You could argue that the US is sort of always in a grand coalition. The extremes of both parties will never vote to pass the budget- the Freedom Caucus & the progressives are always opposed for one reason or another. You need the center of both parties to pass major bills, whether the center left or the center right is dominant in the grand coalition just depends on the results of the last election

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Wait.... where are we disagreeing? You're kinda making my point. The US constitution isn't designed to enable the kind of heavily optimized technocratic paternalist state that Euro style parliamentary democracy envisions.

We do mushy middle, universalist consensus stuff and then we have a bunch of veto points that make single party governance impossible.

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But I think it's fair to say there are benefits to having a range of parties not just two massive camps. Sure, those parties won't 'really' be moderate but will have cross cutting concerns.

And that's a huge advantage because it creates the possibility for genuine shifts in public opinion that are prevented by the negative partisanship of 2 parties.

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The core stumbling block to expanding the possible is the stranglehold the two party duopoly holds on congressional procedures. It's impossible for small, factional or cross-party blocks to force votes on anything. You can't disrupt negative polarization without representatives having to make votes that actually differentiate themselves from their party affiliations. It should be much, much easier for a lone member of congress to force a vote on any single issue at basically any time.

Problem is... I'm pretty sure everyone would hate it. No one wants congress to actually work issue by issue, they want their side to win on the big swings that are only possible with vast totalitarian authority.

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If you had a third party in Congress I suspect they could absolutely do that by making deals with the other groups.

If you have a 48-48-4 senate the 4 senator party has the same voting power as the 2 big parties (it takes 2 party support to pass any bill or even to pick the leadership).

The issue is that it doesn't work for moderates from the major parties because the primary system means they face too large of a penalty for being seen as helping the other party.

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The other problem is it's not possible for a third party to actually triangulate that central "deciding vote" position across a sufficient number of issues to wield reliable power.

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Maybe that's an advantage of parliamentary systems? The prime minister / "government" (in the parliamentary sense) needs the ongoing support of the majority of legislators. If you have a 5-seat majority, a 10-seat third party can force a vote on anything, with the threat of leaving the coalition and forcing new elections.

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I think the challenge, as noted, is that a lot of moderates or people otherwise frustrated with our current political situation are disengaged from the real world of practical politics, and this seems to be a bit of correlation to the point of wondering if there's a causation. That is, by being disengaged they can continue to hold their moderate beliefs, and if they really did get involved with day to day politics it would over time have them taking sides, holding grudges, and shifting their views in line with the peers they work with on politics.

Similarly, how do you staff up a moderate faction given the larger size of the more traditionally partisan pool of applicants? Even if you try to screen for people's views, how are you working to ensure you're getting both moderate views as well as expertise? Since the primary vote in the Democratic Party is left wing, and the donor base, understanding those left wing views is essential to success. But you don't want to be captured by it.

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If no labels really wants to have real influence on presidential elections they should put their money behind changing state laws to allow the proportional allocation of electors including **unbound** electors (not pledged to vote for a particular canidate).

All it would take is for no labels to get a handful of electors (enough to swing the election) who have the authority to wheel and deal to potentially have huge power. They could even potentially get their preferred canidate to be president by striking a deal with the house and throwing the election to them.

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